Walk through the tunnel that’s older than Canada

A visit to the historic Brockville Railway Tunnel, opened in 1860.

BROCKVILLE – Since it reopened in 2017, the Brockville Railway Tunnel has become the lynch pin of activities around downtown Brockville. It’s also been a frequent summer destination for my family when we go to the Brockville waterfront.

The tunnel, the first railway tunnel in Canada, was built between 1854 and 1860. The first passenger train passed through the tunnel on New Years Eve, 1860. For over 110 years, the tunnel connected Brockville’s industrious waterfront to the world. Then it was closed and laid dormant, except for a display at the south portal, as the waterfront became a place for recreation.

The city of Brockville began restoring the tunnel in 2016 and opened it for pedestrian traffic in August 2017.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic however, the tunnel didn’t open this spring as it has the past two years. It opened at the beginning of August and will remain open until its winter shut down later this fall.

Visiting the tunnel isn’t much different than any other place you visit during the pandemic.

The tunnel is considered an enclosed space, so you do have to wear a face mask unless you have a medical reason not to. And you need to maintain a safe two metre physical distancing space between your bubble and the one next to you.

So what is the draw of walking through a tunnel under a city – just that – you get to walk through a tunnel under a city.

In the tunnel is a light show that runs on a 90 minute loop, with the walls of the tunnel lit in multiple colours. Often the lights respond to the music piped through the tunnel. And there are plenty of signs which tell the story of the tunnel.

The tunnel was built to leak, which means there is water dripping on the walls and sometimes on your head as you walk through. Along the walls, there are unique mineral deposits that have formed from the water. If you look closely along the ceiling of the tunnel, you can see new stalactites that have formed.

The concrete floor of the tunnel is wet, so make sure to have footwear that appropriate.

There are lots of other things do to at the Brockville waterfront besides go through the tunnel so what we do is park at the North Portal of the tunnel. That parking lot is at the corner of Brock Street and Tunnel Avenue. From there we walk through the tunnel to go elsewhere downtown. It’s a great way to enjoy Blockhouse Island, the Aquatarium, or go to Don’s Fish and Chips for lunch, without having to search for a parking space.

Some other places to check out downtown while you’re there include the aforementioned Don’s Fish and Chips, the Farmers’ Market when it is open, and The Noshery on King Street west.

For families, there is a big park by the water on Blockhouse Island with a playground. And there is food available at the waterfront patio.

Visiting the railway tunnel, and the Brockville waterfront is a nice physically-distanced way to get out, get away from the back-to-school or home-schooling planning, and enjoy some of the great summer weather before the frozen fist of winter clamps down for another season.

 

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